Offering us an intimate look inside what it's like to be on a 'glamorous' world tour, is your CHOICE Award winning Master At Work Louie Vega. He's been chronicling the summer's dates with the Elements of Life Band, and we share his personal account below. As late nights morph into early mornings, trains, planes and buses transport them to far flung locales where they recreate the magic for each new crowd. Use the links to see the view from the front of the bus and behind the stage of the culture's hottest traveling show. Direct from the man leading it all.
July 7, Lugano Festival: We landed in Milan and drove by tour bus to Lugano, Switzerland. Lugano is less than an hour away from Milan a beautiful place between mountains and on a lake. We went to sound check and found the stage in the middle of a huge square surrounded by buildings. It was in the center of the town. After sound check we went back and rested till the gig. While at the hotel I turned on the TV and to my surprise McCoy Tyner was playing live on television. When I looked at a program, I saw he was on the same bill we were. What an honor to be on the same bill with a jazz legend such as he. So then I find we will be live on television when we go on stage. After McCoy Tyner tore the house down, came Lucky Dube. He is a reggae artist from South Africa. I could not sleep before the show. Watching these two great artists perform really had me excited about our first show of this summer EOL tour.
Then came time for us to go on (I was then told we were closing the event). The crowd was singing one of the hooks of "Backfired", which told me we had some of our peeps representin'. When they mentioned us the crowd roared, the greeting couldn't have been better. Anane and Josh Milan captured the audience as soon as they appeared on stage [to] sing and they rocked the house. The EOL band was tight (not upset in street terms, they played as one). We played for 2 hours and ten minutes and had 2 encores. It was a great way to start. The show in the house sounded incredible thanks to Steve Barkan. I was very surprised by the amount of Italian fans we had in Switzerland. But then again we were pretty close to the border of Switzerland & Italy. I wanna say 'thank you' to all our Swiss and Italian fans that came out to see us! Thanks to Andreas and the Lugano Festival, so well put together.
July 8, Terral Festival: We did not sleep after the Lugano Festival. We finished after 2am and needed to be on the bus at 5am. After all that excitement we could not sleep. I was given a DVD of the show so I watched it in the room till we had to leave. We traveled all day before arriving in Malaga, Spain after two flights. Since the flight in Milan left a little late to Madrid, we barely made our connecting flight. To our surprise when we landed, the gate was literally next door to the gate where we were taking off from for the next flight. We made it on the flight to Malaga. But when we landed our bags never made it. We arrived at the hotel with no sleep, [but] we rested for about an hour. I had a few interviews in the hotel lobby and at the venue. The band was in the lobby and since we had no bags, some band members could not sound check. We had the bass, percussion toy box, and cymbals for the drummer along with the luggage. The luggage finally arrived by 5pm.
While I was at the venue I saw not much of our rider was assembled. I then called for the band to come ASAP. It was 6:30pm and our show began at 9:30pm. For Ruben Rodriguez (bass player), they rented a bass. He being a professional, did not have a problem working it all out and he played a bass that wasn't his personal bass. Kudos to Ruben. We didn't have much time to get ready, but we pulled it off and the show began on time. It was in a beautiful landmark theater (an opera house) which was a first for us; [it was] great to see people dancing in the aisles and the crowd enjoying it so much. It was our second show this summer and another hot set. Josh Milan and Anane sang their hearts out once again. The band was jamming and in the theater it felt like an EOL acoustic set with some hot rhythms. Luisito Quintero took a show stopping tymbal solo. After the show we were treated to some authentic Spanish food at a nice restaurant. All went well. Thank you Malaga and the Terral Festival.
July 9: We had a day off in Malaga, so we all maxed by the pool and some took to the beach. It was fun because whenever I see the musicians and singers we are either at sound check, gigs or sessions. It was nice spending a day with them by the pool talking, swimming and having a few Sangrias :)
July 10: We landed in London. It was sad because of the tragedy that happened a few days prior. We rode on a tour bus to the hotel from Gatwick airport. On the way we passed Kings Cross and saw the remains of the area where it happened. We all said a prayer as we rode by. I said to myself, before the show I should say something. I've been going to London for many years, I see it as my home as well. We have much love there for us and have gained many friends out there over time. When we arrived at Kenwood House in Hampstead it was a beautiful park on a hill overlooking the city. The stage had a small lake right in front and the audience behind it on the lawn. It was a beautiful day and the perfect setting for our music.
Only thing is the small lake (or large pond) was between us, and the crowd. It turned out to be a wonderful show and before we went on I said a few words to our people in London. "Our condolences to the bereaved families of last week's tragedy, our prayers are with you. Hopefully we can lift your spirits just a little". Then we played our set. After the set, we went back to the hotel and I took the band out to dinner at Wagamama, I recommend this place to all. My good friend Kyri of R2 Records (London) joined us. We were met by our tour bus at midnight, it was a double-decker bus with 16 beds, 2 living rooms, bathroom, kitchen, etc. It was the first time I ever rode and slept in a bus. It was cool. We rode to Paris, and the bus got on the train, that was pretty wild (had to cross water so the train goes under the water through tunnels). Then voila! We were in Paris after 5-6 hours.
July 11 & 12: We arrived in Paris to play the legendary New Morning, which is equivalent to the Blue Note or Jazz Cafe. Many of the greats have played that room: Dizzy Gillespie, Mongo Santamaria, Machito, Miles Davis and many more. It is an honor to play the same place as these true legends. We did sound check and prepared two new tunes to add to the show. It keeps it very interesting for the band and singers (after doing many shows). We finished sound check and went back to the hotel with just enough time to get ready.
When we arrived the place was full of our supporters, I saw many familiar faces. Nice to see our people in Paris from the club scene come out to a jazz club. The shows were out of this world. The crowd sang along to many of the songs and were very responsive. We played two sets each night. I made the first set more instrumental and saved our prized singers for the second set. The plan worked out well and Josh Milan sang a beautiful rendition of Donnie Hathaway's "Someday We'll Be Free" it gave everyone goose bumps. Anane rocked them with arms up in the air on her upcoming single "Standing In Line" (written and originally recorded by ESG). The crowd sang verses and choruses of "Brand New Day" as well. I broke down the band to just the crowd singing, it was a chilling experience, I had a knot in my throat, very touching.
In the finale, Luisito Quintero gave us a Timbales solo of life, WOW! Then we had an encore, which was heaven. Thank you Paris, Louie and EOL love you! Our peers were hangin: DJ Deep, Franck Roger, DJ Gregory, San Germain, Fabrice & Aurie (Phunk PR) and many others. I'd like to thank Charlotte & Radio FG family, Franck Roger, Aline & Radio Nova Family, Fabrice, Aurie & Phunk Family, and Babar for getting the message out and promoting the New Morning EOL event for us! Special thanks to the crew (EOL supporters) that guided me to the club (I was lost walking there on my way to the club, it was only a few blocks, but easy to get lost), I just happened to ask the first people I saw and they were parking their car. Paris , we will be back, you were an amazing crowd, Love ya!
July 13: We finished our show at 1am at New Morning. Had to get on the tour bus at 3am. We rode from Paris to Slovakia, 20 hours. It was like a class trip. The bus had 16 beds, 2 living rooms, a kitchen and an entertainment system. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We arrived at midnight the next night, longest bus ride I ever took, and sleeping in a bunk, a little claustrophobic at first, but then you get used to it. The hotel check-in was quick, we weren't as tired because we slept lots on the bus. But sleep is a necessity whenever you can when on tour. You have to take advantage of it.
July 14: The day was free for us, some rested, others walked around and went sightseeing. I slept, lol.
July 15: The gig was not till midnight and we had an 11pm pickup. We went to a castle in the center of Trencin (the city we were staying in). We were able to squeeze in a little sightseeing. When I arrived back at the hotel we were at the restaurant. To our surprise the rock group Garbage were there. I'm a fan of the band so it was a pleasure to see them in person. Zuleica (my assistant) told me they were performing right before us. What an honor to be on the same stage as Garbage.
This was a true test for EOL. To go on after a rock group with so much great music and a slammin' track record. We watched them perform and it was flawless! Then came our turn to get on stage. I thought the crowd would be much more rock oriented. To our surprise they loved us as well and were dancing, arms up, held nice signs, and there were loud applause and screams. We did a tight one hour show, thank you Slovakia, you were an incredible audience. We even had them screaming for an encore, but as soon as we got backstage, I thought we needed to be off by 2am, so we were changing our shirts and didn't know, but we did hear the applauding audience wanting more. We heard the promoter speaking in his language, so we thought he was telling them it was over. Slovakia, Pohoda, we are sorry we didn't go out again, we didn't understand and thought there was a time curfew. We love Slovokia, what a diverse and musical crowd. One of the best!
July 16, Berne, Switzerland: Another beautiful place, the hotel sits on a hill overlooking the city, with a clear blue river below. People were bathing in the river. Exhausted from traveling three hours to the airport in Vienna from Slovakia, then a one hour flight to Zurich. Wait it's not over, a two hour drive to Berne from Zurich. We rested all day. I met with our agent Christian from Bacana, who put this tour together flawlessly. We had a nice dinner on the roof of the hotel Allegro. I thought it was time to meet with the band in the evening. We had discussions about the previous sets and how to tweek it and enhance what we've done. The meeting turned out well. We then met up to go to the festival.
There were many tents and people all over. We had at least 1 1/2 hours to sound check which was a good thing for the band. Everyone heard themselves really well. When we came out the tent was packed. We went on after the Chemical Brothers. They rocked the place. This festival doesn't let shows overlap. One group goes on one stage, then the next on the other stage. Very well organized event by the Gurten Festival, everyone sees everything. The crowd went bezerk, when we were introduced another showstopper for the EOL family. Many of our Swiss people from Lausanne, Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne and even Lugano came to see us. The energy in the tent was very strong (about 5000 people in our tent).
Anane and Josh sang beautifully and the band played in the pocket, we were on our way to another incredible show. When we were done the crowd wanted more, we played till 3:20am. We were supposed to stop at 3am. It felt like the end of a good DJ set, when the crowd wants more. We hung for a minute at the artist VIP and signed a few autographs, before heading back to the hotel. After arriving at the hotel at almost 4am, we had no time to sleep. Straight to a tour bus at 6:30am and on the way to Zurich airport to head for Madrid. Wow, what a night!
July 17, Madrid, Spain: The gig was in a park about 30 minutes outside of Madrid. It was a beautiful night and in the evening, the crowd was very warm. I've always wanted to do a show in a park on a summer evening and in Spain, it was lovely. It reminded me of Summer Stage in NY. An encore is a good sign that people like the show, we had a nice one there. People knew the songs and even yelled out songs we didn't do. When Josh was on someone said "Elevation", I thought that was cool (Kev check that out). The promoter was very polite and said "Louie do what you want and perform as long as you want", and we did. Very courteous people. Thank you Alcala Jazz!
July 18: Another day off, we all came together (the band and artists) for a wonderful dinner, lots of tapas, Spanish Cuisine, and Sangria!
July 19: We had off again, but I had to work on a remix project for Jocelyn Brown. We converted Mike Ciro's room into a studio. Selan played keyboards, Mike played guitar and he engineered as well. We worked till the wee hours, the band each started coming in to hang, Luisito even came in and started rockin' percussion on this little waste paper can, it worked! He can turn almost anything into an instrument when he plays on it, you'll hear it soon, lol. I have a tight deadline on this remix and I'm on the road. So I'm preparing it for Jocelyn to sing on beginning August. It will be mixed at home though, we were only recording into Mike's ProTools on the road. Time to zzzzzz.
July 20: We head out to Hamburg, Germany. The bus arrives at the hotel. It was not a very nice hotel, but we gotta do what we gotta do. This was a gig added on later and our agent suggested we do this. We never did Germany and we need to play out there. So I explained to the artists and the band and they were very understanding. Here's something funny, the room next door to mine was flooded, so water seeped into our room and the rugs were soaked. I wake up from napping, socks on and as soon as I step on the rug my socks are soaked, lol. I then find out Steve Barkan goes through the same. The perks of the business, lol.
We are playing at Fabrik, more of a rock venue. I like when we go out of our territory so we can see what kind of people come out. When we get there, no one was out. So I begin to worry, then all of a sudden a nice crowd pops in enough to fill the dance floor. We didn't fill it to capacity, but the crowd was really into it. We had fun on stage and there was a special energy. Josh was very soulful and was dancing on stage more than ever. Anane was sensual, sexy and shook what her mama gave her :) We even did a new version of "Sunshine" made up on the spot. For the encore, I sent out Selan to play the "Sunshine" chords alone, then had Mike Ciro come out and riff on it. Then sent out Josh, Anane, and Aaminah and it turned into a beautiful acoustic like version. Then drums, bass and percussion joined in. We did a remix live and on the spot. I love this!
July 21: We are getting on a plane in some very bad weather at Hamburg airport. Once we are on board, Belgium Airlines tells us there is a technical problem and we need to get off the plane. We all get back on the bus and it heads back to the gate. The bus then makes a u-turn and goes back towards the plane. We then get back on the plane. The band gets nervous. The flight attendant is assuring us that nothing is wrong. Then the pilot gets on the mic and lets us know all is normal. It was a nerve-wracking flight with the rainy, windy weather, but we pulled through it. We arrived safely in Belgium. The Blue Note Festival in Gent, Belgium was the event. The venue was a huge tent and the sound was on point. The crowd was more sophisticated musically than other concerts we've done. It was a jazz crowd sprinkled with some EOL heads. They enjoyed the show and ended once again with an encore. I looked into the audience and saw us all on a screen they were filming us! I now have 3 DVDs of the shows. I will put together a nice promotional CD to show all of you when we get back. Blue Note Festival in Gent rocked!
July 22: Pori Jazz (Pori, Finland): We landed early afternoon in Helsinki, then drove three-hours to Pori, Finland. It's a little hectic traveling with 15 people in airports, but luckily with Zuleica Martins (my assistant and road manager) and Ralph Muniz it ran pretty smoothly. They keep check-ins, etc. as smooth as possible. Thank you to them both. It was a nice bill at Pori Jazz, all genres of music Lauryn Hill, Craig David, James Taylor Quartet and many more. We had our first show in an indoor space that had a feel like Wetlands in NY, but bigger. The crowd was very excited, always interesting and made us all feel good when we saw Dance Ritual & MAW shirts. Let's us know we have some people that are familiar with our music.
Joshua Milan, Anane and the band were all in rare form they brought the house down. We saw people of all ages there, I would say 21-50 years old. They all had fun as the band did. We (the band and artists) also created new versions of songs, e.g. "Sunshine" which started slow as Josh sings the verses and choruses go by, then when it gets to the third verse we work our way up to the original tempo. It became the encore song that night. After the show we all had some rest since we had a second show the next day at the same festival but in another venue. Great thing about these festivals is they are tailored for music lovers of all kinds. There is not just one kind of music, they mix it all up and you get to see many big name artists in large and small venues offering an intimate vibe as well as the huge outdoor concert vibe.
July 23: Finland is a beautiful country, very green and clean air. We really didn't get a chance to sight-see since we had an afternoon sound check. Upon arriving at the venue, we saw a huge tent with a stage. It could hold about 2000-3000 easy. We ran thru sound check and went back to the hotel. Then came time for the show, we arrived and heard the crowd roaring. The James Taylor Quartet was rocking the place. I usually don't hear the crowd till we get on, it was the first time I heard it that way. I usually arrive in between the change over. I was a bit nervous because I heard so many people, but was over it by the time we hit the stage. After their encore they came off stage and I met the band (James Taylor Quartet), they were very nice. Great energy to meet up with before getting on stage ourselves. We went on and did our show.
It was the full on show (I have three versions, short, medium, long), the crowd loved every minute of it. As I was looking at the crowd I see the James Taylor Quartet (along with some of his crew) checking the show. We got on to another encore, then exited the stage. On the way to our dressing rooms, I saw the band (James Taylor Quartet), they gave us a warm greeting and he then tells me it was the best show he's seen in years. He liked the way we mixed all the different styles of music in one show. He's been doing this circuit for years and is a well-respected musician, so it meant a lot coming from him. He also spoke about me producing his next album, I said fo sho,' lets get together and collaborate. Check out his music when you can, (James Taylor Quartet) you will enjoy it. You never know who you'll meet on the road or what can come about!
July 24, Rome: We arrived at our hotel. Nice spot, we rested and had the day off. Pool day. Mike Ciro has every gadget around; he pulled out Bose speakers, I-Pods and the hotel ran some electricity to us. We had fun listening to some tunes and getting some sun. That night there was a private party in honor of EOL, we all went out to the SupperClub. There was a five-course dinner set up on large beds. It was a fun experience. Then I jammed a little, everyone danced and had some fun. We went back to the hotel to rest. Thanks to Supperclub and Ornella Cichetti for the nice dinner, venue and music (Marco).
July 25: We went to sound check at the Fiesta Festival. The stage was huge, we were on the side of a racetrack. All went well at the check, then we returned to the hotel to get ready. When it came time to get on stage we were welcomed by the crowd. Anane, Josh Milan and the band threw down, it was on point. I saw familiar faces from the club scene as well as new faces. We played the long show, it was only EOL on this stage. When we were done, after the encore, it came time to eat. We went to another part of the festival where there were many restaurants selling their food. There were multicultural foods from all over the world. We walked to an Argentinian restaurant in the festival area and ate there.
While walking we had a little taste of the celebrity life, everyone followed us and wanted signatures on CDs, records, shirts, etc. It got a little wild, but we were ok. They had to close off the restaurant area we were in. We then ate and headed to another area where I had to DJ for an hour. When we arrived the party erupted and everyone was screaming. The EOL band, Anane and Josh Milan all stood near me while I DJd. It was fun, the crowd lost it. Then we had to leave when I was done and we had no way to go but through the crowd. We made it thru safely, but there were lots of people trying to reach out for a picture or signature or just to say hello. We were surprised, but nice to see that we touched all the warm and friendly Italians. Thank you Fiesta Festival and all the fans from all over Italy that came down and supported us.